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The Secret to Why We Have Not Been Attacked

By    |   Wednesday, 10 September 2008 05:26 PM EDT

The biggest secret in American political life is why we have not had another terrorist attack since 9/11.

The media and liberal politicians will tell you it’s an accident or a matter of luck. They are wrong.

Terrorists haven’t attacked during the past seven years because of the work of the FBI, the CIA, and our military, as well as the sweeping changes President Bush instigated in the intelligence community.

When Bush proclaimed that any country harboring a terrorist would be considered a terrorist country, Arab countries began cooperating in the war on terror, turning over thousands of terrorists and leads.

He also made the FBI become more prevention-oriented. Although the bureau’s mission always included stopping terrorist plots, and it often did so, it usually closed the case when it got the bad guys, as it did in the first World Trade Center bombing. Now every case becomes the basis to develop new sources, and these informants may be run out for years to infiltrate terrorist groups.

As FBI official Art Cummings told me for my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” “Pre-9/11, the first consideration was, I got an indictment in my pocket. ... Slap it down on the table, pick the guy up, you throw him on an airplane. You bring him home, you put him in jail, and you go, ‘Okay, I’ve done a great job today.’”

[Editor's Note: Get “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack” — Go Here Now].

If that were to happen today, “I would have told my agents they basically just put Americans more in jeopardy rather than less in jeopardy. It’s a completely different approach and bears little resemblance to the previous one,” says Cummings, who heads the FBI’s international counterterrorism operations.

Now, Cummings tells agents, “Your objective is not to make the arrest. Your objective is to make that suspect our collection platform. That guy now is going to tell us just how big and broad the threat might be. He now becomes a means to collection, instead of the target of collection. I want you to understand his entire universe.”

The media will tell you that the FBI and CIA still don’t talk to each other. But in 2005, Bush established the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va., where 200 analysts from the CIA and FBI sit side by side analyzing threats 24 hours a day. Secure video conferences three times a day include representatives from all parts of the intelligence community and the White House analyzing threats and parceling out leads.

Bush’s Patriot Act tore down the so-called wall that Attorney General Janet Reno imposed, a wall that prevented FBI agents from sharing information with each other and with the CIA. The act, although maligned in the media, allowed the FBI to wiretap terrorists, regardless of what phones they happen to use, as the FBI could in organized crime cases.

The National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts that Bush ordered also opened a window for the FBI on terrorist activity within the U.S.

Since 9/11, the FBI, the CIA, and the military have rolled up about 5,000 terrorists worldwide. Every few months, the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists. Thus, many plots are never hatched because terrorists have been killed, arrested, or sent back to their own countries and imprisoned.

Instead of hailing the efforts to connect the dots, the media demonize those who are trying to protect us, portraying the tools that uncover clues to plots as “spying on innocent Americans.” When a plot is quashed, the media minimize it.

In June 2007, when the FBI foiled a plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, The New York Times buried the story. In the dream world of the Times editors, such threats to America are less important than the fact that 75-year-old Andrea Mosconi’s job is to play violins in a museum in Italy to keep them in shape, a feature the Times played on page one the same day.

The media have even managed to portray Saddam Hussein as benign. But as revealed in “The Terrorist Watch,” during seven months of secret debriefings, Hussein admitted to FBI agent George Piro that he had planned to resume his weapons of mass destruction program, including developing nuclear weapons, within a year.

Many in the media could not bear to hear that Bush might have done something right in removing Hussein. Few newspapers reported the story.

When the media and politicians run out of ways to deny Bush credit for making us safer, they will claim that al-Qaida has chosen to space out its attacks. But al-Qaida’s attempt to blow up nine American airliners crossing the Atlantic in 2006 and the alleged role of an al-Qaida affiliate in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto are reminders that al-Qaida is constantly on the attack.

While the media underplay the threats, distort descriptions of the measures needed to uncover the next plot, and mischaracterize the progress in the war on terror, they also undermine it by revealing secrets of how the FBI and CIA are trying to stop the next attack.

Without a reliable way to get information about this secret war, Americans are at the mercy of the media’s slanted portrayal. Yet, we face a critical choice in the 2008 presidential election: Given that al-Qaida is intent on wiping out the U.S. with nuclear weapons, as FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has told me, do we continue on the offense, dealing with threats before they materialize, or do we return to the pre-9/11 approach?

Back then, because of politically correct rules the Clinton administration imposed, FBI agents were not allowed to follow suspects into mosques that are open to the public. CIA officers had to get special permission to recruit sources with so-called human rights violations. FBI agents could not look at public online chat rooms to develop leads on people who might be recruiting terrorists or distributing information on making explosives, even though any 12-year-old could go on them.

Sen. Barack Obama has made it clear that, if he were elected president, he would roll back the clock and take away tools necessary not only to connect the dots but also to find them in the first place. In fact, he twice voted against — and eventually voted for — revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow the NSA to continue to monitor foreign terrorists’ calls without a warrant, even if all parties are foreigners situated overseas.

Like a Rip Van Winkle who is unaware of recent history, Obama has cited the government’s prosecution of those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as the correct way to deal with terrorism.

Apparently, Obama missed learning that the 9/11 hijackers wanted to be martyrs and were prepared to be jailed or killed. No threat of prosecution would have deterred them.

When the Rev. Rick Warren asked Obama whether evil exists, he said it does and named three examples, none of them the biggest threat to our safety.

In contrast, Sen. John McCain cited al-Qaida as evil, declaring, “And we must totally defeat it.”

In this election, the choice is clear: Do we continue to protect ourselves, our families, and our country with an aggressive approach? Or, blinded by media distortions, do we leave ourselves wide open to more attacks as Obama weakens our national security?

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
e-mail. Go here now.

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The biggest secret in American political life is why we have not had another terrorist attack since 9/11. The media and liberal politicians will tell you it’s an accident or a matter of luck. They are wrong. Terrorists haven’t attacked during the past seven years because...
Wednesday, 10 September 2008 05:26 PM
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